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Colombia News Brief May 16 to 27, 2016

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Welcome to LAWG’s Colombia News Brief, a compilation of the last two week’s top articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, human rights, and more in Colombia. Throughout the summer months, dependent on the capacity of LAWG, the Colombia News Brief will be sent out either weekly or bi-weekly.

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IMG 0120 1Children in the San José de Apartadó comunnity carry signs showing the faces of Colombians who have been killed in the country’s five decades long conflict. Photo credit: Fredy Builes via PRI

The Peace Process with the FARC

•   The Beginning of the End of Colombia’s War: Agreement on Minors Reached in Havana 
Virginia “Ginny” Bouvier, Colombia Calls, May 17, 2016
“As the peace process in Havana enters its final stretch, decisions are coming at a fast pace and preparations for the end of the war are advancing… the Colombian government and the FARC announced a process to ensure that the final peace deal is approved by the Colombian Congress, the Constitutional Court, the Colombian citizenry, and the international community… Within the next 15 days, the negotiating teams in Havana will establish a road map and protocols for the separation and reintegration of youth under 15 years of age associated with the FARC, and within one month, the government will then launch a comprehensive program to meet the differentiated needs of all minors, especially girls.”

•   Colombia’s peace deals in depth: Child soldiers
Stephen Gill, Colombia Reports, May 16, 2016
“Colombia’s left-wing FARC rebels agreed to release its child soldiers, while the government vowed to grant victim status to those under 15 years of age and provide transitional justice for the rest… The deal will see the ‘withdrawal of minors under 15 from camps of the FARC-EP and commitment to the development of a roadmap for the withdrawal of all other minors and a special comprehensive program for their attention’… In respect of minors, the agreement aims “to ensure their economic, social and cultural rights, as well as their civil and citizen rights” and to have the children out of the FARC, possibly as soon as within a month.”

•   Freedom of Association Needs to Be Protected for Colombia to Reach a Just & Lasting Peace 
Lisa Haugaard, Latin America Working Group Education Fund, May 16, 2016
“Peace is not achieved merely by an agreement on paper. Colombia must rise to the challenge of creating a nation in which political opposition, and civil society organizations, including labor unions, human rights groups, Afro-Colombian, indigenous and community organizations, women and LGBT groups, can organize without receiving death threats, without losing their jobs, without being blacklisted, without being arbitrarily detained, without being disappeared, without being displaced, and without being killed. Colombia is still far from achieving these very basic guarantees for freedom of association and freedom of expression.”

•   Colombian president asks high court to authorize referendum on peace deal
EFE via Fox News Latino, May 26, 2016
“Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos on Thursday asked the Constitutional Court to authorize a referendum he is proposing on an eventual peace deal with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, or FARC, guerrilla group. Santos addressed the court at a hearing on the law governing the proposed plebiscite. ‘For peace, for our social rule of law, for the victims, for the future of Colombia, for the potential hope of finally living in a normal country, without war, I respectfully ask’ that the Statutory Peace Referendum Law be declared constitutional, the head of state said. Santos added that the agreement to be signed with the FARC will signify recognition by an illegal actor that had taken up arms against our institutions, our constitution and our laws, of the ‘legitmacy of those same institutions, that constitution and those laws.’ Putting the peace deal to a popular referendum is not a constitutional or legal obligation of his administration because the nation’s charter gives him the power to negotiate and sign the agreement without that step, Santos said, though adding that he wants the Colombian people to have the final say.'”

•   Santos ratificó que sin refrendación no habrá acuerdo de paz
El Tiempo, 24 de mayo de 2016
“El presidente Juan Manuel Santos ratificó el martes que si no hay refrendación ciudadana en las urnas, a través de la votación del plebiscito por la paz, los acuerdos que se firmen con las Farc en La Habana no podrán entrar en vigencia. Lo que precisó el jefe de Estado –en plata blanca– es que si la ciudadanía vota mayoritariamente por el no o por alguna circunstancia no se da esa cita en las urnas, pues el acuerdo para ponerle punto final a cinco décadas de guerra interna quedará sin legitimidad ni vigencia”.

•   Nigún poder humano” puede impedir la firma de la paz: Farc
El Colombiano, 27 de mayo de 2016
Un nuevo mensaje en el que muestra su voluntad de salir de la ilegalidad envió este viernes la guerrilla de las Farc. ‘Nunca antes hemos estado Gobierno y guerrilla tan cerca de firmar un cese al fuego y de hostilidades bilateral y definitivo como ahora’, dijo la guerrilla. El pronunciamiento se da precisamente en el día en que cumplen 52 años de estar en armas. El pronunciamiento lo hizo el Secretariado Mayor de la insurgencia, en donde además expresas que ‘no habrá poder humano’ que lo impida”.

•   Female Ex-Combatants Share Experiences with Colombian  
Virginia “Ginny” Bouvier, Colombia Calls, May 20, 2016
“On May 18, some 13 ex-combatant women from around the world concluded a visit to Havana, where they were invited by the Colombian government and the FARC-EP to meet with the peace table and to share their reflections and experiences in other peace processes.  Participating in the meeting were female ex-combatants from Colombia’s Revolutionary Workers Party (PRT), M-19, Army of National Liberation (EPL), and Quintin Lame,  as well as ex-combatant women from around the globe– El Salvador, Guatemala, Uruguay, South Africa, Northern Ireland, Indonesia and Nepal.  The women had all set aside their weapons following peace processes and experienced the transition  from armed resistance to reincorporation within their respective societies.”

•   Gobierno y Farc entierran la Constituyente 
Juanita León, La Silla Vacía, 13 de mayo de 2016
“El Gobierno y las Farc anunciaron anoche un acuerdo para blindar jurídicamente el Acuerdo Final de La Habana que abrirá varios debates jurídicos pero que entierra uno político que era un escollo grande para la negociación: la Asamblea Constituyente que ha defendido las Farc desde que arrancó la negociación. El acuerdo anunciado ayer busca darle a esa guerrilla una garantía jurídica de que el gobierno no le hará conejo con lo que se ha acordado en La Habana puesto que dispone que el Acuerdo Final formará parte de la Constitución. Es decir que, en principio, lo pactado no quedará sujeto a que el próximo presidente de Colombia crea en los acuerdos ni a que un juez, vía tutela o una demanda, termine modificando lo acordado. Aunque hay varias cosas que dice la Constitución que no se cumplen en la realidad, así el Acuerdo estaría mucho más blindado dado que cada uno de sus puntos sería no solo una norma constitucional sino una obligación internacional del Estado colombiano”.

•   LatAm in Focus: Frank Pearl on Colombia’s Post-Conflict Challenges [Podcast] 
Adriana La Rotta, Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), May 17, 2016
“Frank Pearl, one of the negotiators participating in the Havana peace talks, spoke with AS/COA’s Adriana La Rotta about how Colombians perceive the process and the importance of getting the deal right. ‘One thing we learned is that setting dates is not a good idea,’ Pearl explains, referring to a March 23 target date that came and went. ‘A deadline cannot be more important than a good agreement.’ Even as Colombia moves toward a post-conflict scenario, the country is deeply polarized over the accord, and Pearl sees the tone of debate as debilitating for Colombian society and the agreement’s implementation. ‘Those political leaders, those civic leaders, those business leaders that are engaged in disrespectful conversations should reflect and set the example,’ he says.”

•   Weekly Chart: Colombia’s Peace Process by the Numbers [Infographic]
Holly K. Sonneland, Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), May 18, 2016
“Despite a missed March 23 deadline, Bogotá and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia are still hammering out the remaining points of a peace agreement at the Havana negotiating table. On May 12, the FARC, as the group is known, agreed to the terms of a plebiscite, the mechanism by which the final peace deal will be put to a vote before the Colombian people. Three days later, the rebel group agreed to release child soldiers from their ranks. With the plebiscite scheduled for some time in September 2016, only a few points remain unresolved on the agenda. Below, we look at the numbers that have defined more than 50 years of internal armed conflict, as well as the years of post-conflict rebuilding to come.”

•   El doble mensaje de Santos frente al plebiscito
Juanita León, La Silla Vacía, 26 de mayo de 2016
“Esta mañana, el presidente Juan Manuel Santos defenderá en la audiencia pública en la Corte Constitucional los argumentos para avalar el plebiscito. Al hacerlo, despeja la duda que se había sembrado en el ambiente de que en realidad el Gobierno quiere que se caiga por inconstitucional y por el otro, le envía el mensaje a las Farc de que este mecanismo de refrendación de los acuerdos de paz entre el Gobierno y la guerrilla es una línea roja que no está dispuesto a cruzar. La audiencia… es definitivamente un gesto político que va mucho más allá de la argumentación jurídica que haga el mandatario. En este caso, al hacerlo, Santos logra despejar públicamente la idea que quedó sembrada en el ambiente a principio de año cuando se comenzó a decir en varios círculos que el Gobierno estaba enviando bajo cuerda el mensaje a la Corte Constitucional de que prefería que hundiera el plebiscito porque temía no tener las mayorías para pasarlo”.

•   El millonario apoyo de la Unión Europea para el posconflicto 
EFE via Semana, 24 de mayo de 2016
“El enviado especial de la Unión Europea (UE) para la paz de Colombia, el irlandés Eamon Gilmore, anunció hoy que sumarán un plan de préstamos por 400 millones de euros (unos 445,6 millones de dólares) a la financiación de un eventual posconflicto en el país. ‘La Unión Europea ya ha comprometido recursos en el proceso de construcción de paz en Colombia’, dijo el irlandés en una rueda de prensa en Medellín, donde dictó la conferencia ‘Oportunidades comerciales para Colombia en el contexto del posconflicto’.… El funcionario aseguró que la UE ha mostrado un “fuerte apoyo” al proceso de paz entre el Gobierno colombiano y las FARC y pensando en el posconflicto ha desarrollado ‘instrumentos’ para apoyar al país en su transición.

•   Colombianos, más dispuestos a participar en la paz tras acuerdo final
El Tiempo, 24 de mayo de 2016
“Independientemente de la opinión que los colombianos tienen sobre la negociación con las Farc, más de la mitad están “muy dispuestos” (el 30 por ciento) o “algo dispuestos” (el 28 por ciento) a participar en actividades relacionadas con la paz una vez se firmen los acuerdos definitivos con esa guerrilla, según un estudio realizado en 10 ciudades del país. Lo interesante del sondeo es que, además de las principales capitales, incluyó ciudades que no suelen ser tenidas en cuenta en las encuestas, como Villavicencio, Florencia, Pasto, Montería y San José del Guaviare… a diferencia de otras encuestas, que miden opinión, este estudio midió la ‘actitud’ de los colombianos ‘para participar’ en la construcción de la paz. Por ejemplo, el 76 por ciento de los encuestados que dijeron estar muy dispuestos, algo dispuestos o poco dispuestos a hacer parte de actividades para construir paz, afirmaron que apoyarían la participación local en estos temas”.


The Peace Process with the ELN

•   Colombia’s ELN Suspected in Journalists’ Disappearance
Michael Lohmuller, InSight Crime, May 25, 2016
“The disappearance of several journalists in the troubled zone of Catatumbo — home to an array of illicit armed groups and major coca cultivation — has refocused attention on the ELN’s practice of kidnapping and this region’s central role in Colombia’s internal armed conflict… Although Hernández-Mora was last seen in a part of El Tarra known as Filogringo, a stronghold of the ELN, the group has issued no public statements claiming to have detained any of the three journalists nor made any ransom demands. Nor is it clear the disappearance of Hernández-Mora, or the two journalists from RCN, would be in the strategic interests of the ELN leadership.  It was recently announced the ELN and Colombian government would soon start formal peace negotiations after years of preliminary talks. Nevertheless, the ELN’s continued use of kidnapping has proved a hindrance to discussions, and President Santos has said the government would not engage in dialogue while the ELN holds kidnapping victims. While the ELN has yet to formally renounce the practice of kidnapping — something the FARC did in 2012 — kidnapping several journalists would appear counterintuitive if the group is serious about sitting down for peace talks.”

•   La paz con el ELN, también en vilo por Salud 
Juanita León, La Silla Vacía, 23 de mayo de 2016
“El Eln y el Gobierno están definiendo una fórmula para relanzar el proceso de paz con esta guerrilla. Sin embargo, si se llega a establecer que el Eln tiene secuestrada a Salud Hernández este esfuerzo nuevamente se echaría por la borda. El Gobierno envió una comisión del Gaula a buscarla al Catatumbo; la Defensoría del Pueblo envió dos comisiones humanitarias encabezadas por los defensores regionales de Norte de Santander y Ocaña, una de ellas hacia Tibú y La Gabarra, y otra hacia el casco urbano de El Tarra, “con el fin de recopilar mayor información y prestar los buenos oficios de la Institución en caso que sea necesario”; el alcalde de El Tarra –quien cree que de pronto está haciendo un reportaje en la vereda de Filogringo- también mandó a buscarla. Por ahora nadie la ha encontrado ni tampoco nadie ha reclamado haberla secuestrado”.

The Search for Missing Journalists in Catatumbo

•   Colombia investigating whether missing Spanish journalist was kidnapped
Sibylla Brodzinsky, The Guardian, May 23, 2016
“Government troops are combing through a remote area of north-east Colombia for a Spanish journalist who went missing over the weekend and is feared to have been kidnapped by left-wing rebels. Salud Hernández was last seen on Saturday in the town of El Tarra, in a region known as Catatumbo where both organized crime and leftist guerrillas operate. She is a correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper and a columnist for the Colombian paper El Tiempo. Witnesses told the newspaper that she was last seen on Saturday arguing with an unidentified man before taking a motorcycle to an unknown destination. The town’s mayor said it is possible she was taken hostage but the defense ministry said early on Monday it had not been able to confirm or deny whether she had been kidnapped.”

•   Colombia launches huge search as two more journalists go missing
Associated Press via The Guardian, May 24, 2016
“Two more journalists have gone missing in a lawless region in Colombia where security forces are already carrying out a huge search for a prominent Spanish journalist, according to President Juan Manuel Santos. Santos said on Tuesday that two journalists from the right-leaning network RCN are unaccounted for and now also being sought. The two were part of a group of journalists that had travelled to the volatile Catatumbo region to cover the hunt for Salud Hernández-Mora, a longtime correspondent for Spain’s El Mundo newspaper whose weekly column in Bogotá daily El Tiempo is one of the most read in Colombia.”

•   Catatumbo reminds Colombia the state has no control over its national territory
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, May 25, 2016
“The disappearance of three journalists in the northeastern Catatumbo shows how Colombia’s central government has no control over areas away from the cities and economically important regions. The mountainous Catatumbo region, like many others, has long been submitted to the authority of illegal armed groups and has become one of Colombia’s primary coca growing regions… The kidnapping of Spanish journalist Salud Hernandez again laid bare how the Colombian state has no control over Catatumbo. But what remains invisible is the general lack of state control over Colombia’s national territory, for examples in other remote areas like Uraba, Bajo Cauca, Putumayo and Nariño.”

•   Colombia’s Santos: Missing Spanish Reporter Met with Rebels for Story 
Latin American Herald Tribune, May 26, 2016
“The Spanish journalist who went missing last weekend in the northeastern region of Catatumbo is working on a story about the ELN rebel group and is expected to return in the coming days, Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos said on Wednesday. ‘About Salud Hernandez, the information I have, which I am trying to verify: she went of her own volition to do a reporting job, that she met with the ELN and the ELN is waiting to see how to return her,’ the president said during a visit to the western province of Choco.”

•   Gobierno de colombia confirma que el ELN tiene a periodistas desaparecidos
Infolatam, 26 mayo de 2016 
“El ministro de Defensa de Colombia, Luis Carlos Villegas, afirmó hoy que hay “certeza” de que el Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) tiene en su poder a la periodista española Salud Hernández-Mora y sus colegas colombianos Diego D’Pablos y Carlos Melo, desaparecidos en el Catatumbo, región del noreste del país… Villegas subrayó que ‘definitivamente el ELN ha delinquido en este caso’ y aunque recordó que el presidente colombiano, Juan Manuel Santos, ha advertido a esa guerrilla que debe renunciar al secuestro para poder iniciar una negociación de paz, prefirió hablar de ‘desapariciones’. En su opinión, ‘más allá de cuál es el delito cometido por el ELN’, en este caso se trata de personas ‘cuya libertad ha sido coartada contra su voluntad’, y recordó que ‘desaparición’ es ‘la noticia criminal que reposa en la Fiscalía General’, aunque admitió que también puede ser ‘desaparición forzada o secuestro’”.

•   Exigen en Colombia libertad inmediata de tres periodistas 
The Associated Press via El Nuevo Herald, 27 de mayo de 2016
“Diversos sectores de Colombia exigieron el viernes la inmediata liberación de tres periodistas luego de que el gobierno revelara que están en poder de la guerrilla Ejército de Liberación Nacional. ‘Los periodistas no pueden seguir convertidos en un botín ni para la guerra ni para la paz. Los periodistas tienen que ejercer libremente esta actividad que es para la democracia’, aseguró Adriana Hurtado, presidenta de la no gubernamental Federación Colombiana de Periodistas. El jueves, el gobierno informó que el ELN tiene secuestrados desde hace varios días en el noreste colombiano a los periodistas Salud Hernández-Mora, Diego D’pablos y Carlos Melo”.

•   El Catatumbo, teatro de guerra 
Verdad Abierta, 25 de mayo de 2016
“La convulsionada región fronteriza de Norte de Santander ha sido escenario de confrontación bélica desde finales de la década del 60. Detrás de ella ha habido un interés por el dominio de una zona estratégica que provee recursos ilegales al que la domine. La desaparición de dos periodistas y un camarógrafo en el Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, ha puesto la mirada en esta región, acosada por los grupos armados ilegales, pero también afectada por la explotación de hidrocarburos y la siembra de hoja de coca para uso ilícito. Históricamente, ha sido un teatro de guerra”.

•   Las cinco cosas que revela la desaparición de Salud Hernández-Mora 
Juanita León y Jineth Prieto, La Silla Vacía, 24 de mayo de 2016
“El presidente Santos acaba de ordenarle al comandante de la Policía y del Ejército que se desplacen al Catatumbo para ponerse a la cabeza del operativo de búsqueda de la periodista Salud Hernández-Mora y de los dos periodistas de RCN TV Diego D’Pablos y su camarógrafo Carlos Melo, y una tercera persona que fueron secuestrados mientras hacían reportería sobre su paradero. Esto ocurre después de que no se sabe nada de la columnista de El Tiempo desde el sábado en la tarde y de que en esta madrugada dos periodistas de Caracol TV fueran liberados por el ELN y contaran que esta guerrilla los había hecho cautivos mientras hacían reportería sobre la desaparición de Hernández-Mora en la vereda Filogringo, de El Tarra. En la zona se rumora que el ELN liberaría hoy a los periodistas de RCN, pero de Salud no se ha dicho nada. Mientras se aclara la situación, estas son las cinco cosas que su desaparición o secuestro ponen en evidencia”…

Presumed Threat that “Peace Colombia” Aid will be Tied to Colombia’s Health Care Decisions 

•   Does Colombia really have to choose between peace and public health?
Stephanie Burgos, Oxfam America, May 23, 2016
“Supporting a peace deal in Colombia is one of the Obama Administration’s top foreign policy priorities this year… So it came as a surprise to find out recently that some in the Administration and US Congress have indicated that US aid for ‘Peace Colombia’ may be at risk due to actions by Colombia’s Health Ministry to use a public health policy to promote generic competition in order to lower the cost of an expensive leukemia drug… This is not the first time that the US Trade Representative and Senator Hatch have sought to use all available mechanisms to bully countries so that they refrain from using legitimate public health flexibilities, such as compulsory licensing, to spur generic competition in order to lower the cost of medicines. But it’s a galling example of bad US policy and illustrates US policy incoherence.”

•   House Democrats blast US Trade Rep for pressuring Colombia over Novartis patent 
Ed Silverman, Stat News, May 25, 2016
“A group of 15 House Democrats wants United States Trade Representative Michael Froman to explain why his office appeared to pressure Colombia not to sidestep a patent on a Novartis cancer drug. The move is the latest twist in the escalating battle between the global pharmaceutical industry and some governments over intellectual property rights and access to affordable medicines. In a letter sent Wednesday to Froman, the lawmakers expressed ‘serious concern’ that his staff ‘may have discouraged’ Colombian officials from issuing a compulsory license for the Gleevec medicine. In response to concerns about public health, a country can issue a license so that a generic company can make a brand-name medicine without the consent of the company holding a patent.”

•   Sens. Sherrod Brown and Bernie Sanders send letter to USTR condemning pressure on Colombia compulsory license for cancer drug
Andrew Goldman, Knowledge Ecology International, May 26, 2016
“In response to reports of USTR pressure on Colombia’s potential compulsory license for imatinib, Senators Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., have sent a letter to USTR objecting ‘to any efforts to protect the public health of Colombians in a way that is appropriate, effective, and consistent with the country’s trade and public health obligations,’ and condemning as unconscionable ‘that any representatives of the U.S. government would threaten to rescind funding for Colombia’s peace initative if a compulsory license for Glivec were issued.’”

•   How Colombia’s Drugs Battle With Novartis Could Change Healthcare in Latin America 
Matt Youkee, Americas Society/Council of the Americas (AS/COA), May 18, 2016
“An ambitious healthcare reform in Colombia may be facing its toughest challenge yet: the pharmaceutical industry. In a bold step with wide repercussions for Latin America’s healthcare sector and drug patent law, Colombia’s Ministry of Health in late April moved to unilaterally end Swiss drug giant Novartis’ patent on the expensive cancer treatment Glivec after the company refused to sell it at lower cost. This would be the country’s first-ever “compulsory license,” which is when a government allows generic drug production without consent from the patent owner. The move could reportedly save Colombia tens of millions of dollars annually at a time when the government is struggling to rein in the ballooning costs of expanded healthcare coverage. Perhaps more concerning to the pharmaceutical industry, it could also open the door to further disputes between Latin American governments and drug companies over access to high-cost medicines.”

Human Rights

•   Can Colombia’s Displaced Go Home Again?
Camila Osorio, The New Republic, May 19, 2016
“Most displaced people, or desplazados, have moved to vast shantytowns in the main cities of Colombia. They were forced to abandon their homes and livelihoods as paramilitary groups, guerrilla fighters, and the military fought for control over their land. Very few desplazados try to return to their homes. The home [50-year-old activist Afranio Solano] left behind is in Urabá, a region near the Panama border. It is swarming with armed groups. Although the police and the military have a presence in Urabá, the government cannot control all the groups trading drugs, weapons, or people. The strongest organizations in Urabá right now are the left-wing Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and the Urabeños.”

•   In Colombia’s decades-long civil war, one community vows neutrality 
Alexandra Hall, PRI, May 25, 2016
“In the midst of Colombia’s long-running civil war, between a rebel movement known as FARC, and paramilitaries and the government on the other, a small group of poor farmers is refusing to take sides. Called the San José de Apartadó Peace Community, the group has declared its land neutral territory and have spent nearly two decades peacefully protesting the fighting… The community decided to stop cooperating with the armed groups, no matter what. They wrote a document declaring their land a neutral zone and said anyone could join them if they followed the rules of the community.”

•   Local women’s organizations lead charge against violence in Colombian cities
Andalusia Knoll, Free Speech Radio News, May 23, 2016
“While Colombia’s armed political conflict may be on the path to an end, violence still rages in some of the country’s major cities, including Cali and the nearby port city of Buenaventura. But Afro-Colombian women’s organizations are taking action to combat the frightening murder rates in their communities… Nora Isabel Castillo co-founded the Humanitarian Space of Puente Nayero in 2013 to push back against frightening levels of violence in the community… A few hours drive south of Buenaventura lies Cali, Colombia’s third largest city and home to around two-and-a-half million people. An average of six people are murdered here each day. Hundreds of thousands of Afro-Colombians displaced from the countryside by armed conflict now live in an eastern part of the city known as Agua Blanca. It’s where a group of women started the Casa Chontaduro Cultural Center to, in their words, prevent violence and transform injustice.” 

•   In Colombia, abortion is legal but denied to many women, advocates say
Anastasia Moloney, Thomson Reuters Foundation, May 25, 2016
“Colombia, where abortion is legal on paper but in practice out of reach by women dissuaded or deterred by bureaucratic hurdles, dangerous delays and stubborn attitudes, advocates say. Colombia, a nation of 48 million people, allows abortion in cases of rape, incest, fetal malformation, if the fetus is at risk and if the health, both physical and mental, of the mother is at risk… Yet despite the partial decriminalization of its total ban on abortion a decade ago, millions of women have sought illegal abortions rather than legal procedures, according to one estimate.”

•   ‘If I go back to Colombia, I’m going to die’: An au pair battling cancer fights to stay in the U.S. (Colombia-related news in the United States)
Justin Moyer, The Washington Post, May 20, 2016
“Edna Valenzuela is learning that toddlers are way too interested in chemotherapy pumps. The 26-year-old au pair from Colombia is still able to care for 17-month-old Jasper Hanson, despite the fact that he keeps fiddling with the tubes that run from her portable pump, under her shirt and into the port set near her shoulder. The medicine coursing through her veins is helping her combat an aggressive form of non-Hodgkin lymphoma after a recent diagnosis. She feels better and has the support of her host family, who want to extend her year-long stay. She has free outpatient treatment at the National Institutes of Health… The au pair agency that helped bring her to the United States isn’t extending her visa for a second year to care for the toddler and receive potentially lifesaving treatment. Valenzuela is at the center of a campaign by Jasper’s parents, Shaina Aber-Hanson, an immigration attorney, and Marc Hanson, a human rights advocate. The couple, armed with a Change.org petition and connections on Capitol Hill, is battling AuPairCare, the agency through which Valenzuela was hired, after it refused to extend a stay that ends next month.”


Afro-Colombian & Indigenous Rights

•   Discussion on “The Role of Afro-Descendants in Dialogues and Peacebuilding in Colombia”
Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights, May 18, 2016
“On 17 May 2016, the Afro-Colombian National Peace Council (CONPA) conducted a discussion on the role of Afro-Colombians in the dialogue and peacebuilding efforts in Colombia. About 100 individuals from Afro-Colombian organizations, officials from government agencies, and representatives of agencies involved national and international cooperation participated in the event… The representative for Colombia for the Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights (Pedro L. Cortes-Ruiz), who attended the event, highlighted some of the approaches that are most relevant to the prospect of guaranteeing the rights of ethnic communities in the context the post-agreement.”

•   Colombia celebra 165 años sin esclavitud, pero más del 60% de afros son pobres [Infografía]
El Espectador, 20 de mayo de 2016
“El acceso a la educación, a los servicios públicos y al mercado laboral siguen siendo desigual para los afros en el país. Este es el panorama desalentador al que se enfrentan.”

The Paramilitary Threat & Organized Crime

•   Colombia’s Right-Wing Terror 
Kieran Duffy, Jacobin, May 19, 2016
“If there was any doubt about who controls much of the nation’s territory, the “pacific strike” dispelled it: right-wing militants, not the Colombian state, have the monopoly on violence in significant swaths of the country… The government claims that all paramilitaries have demobilized and that the remaining groups are nothing more than “criminal bands” who will not receive a peace deal. The paramilitaries’ show of force in March did, however, stall negotiations between the government and the FARC. With the talks nearing a conclusion and separate dialogues with smaller group ELN about to begin, further disruption could be disastrous.”

•   La mafia que nos gobernó: La resistencia civil de Uribe no es contra la impunidad, sino para lograrla
Ariel Ávila, Semana Opinión, 17 de mayo de 2016
“El actual senador Álvaro Uribe ha llamado a la resistencia civil. La convocatoria se fundamenta en al menos dos cosas. La primera se refiere al rechazo de los acuerdos de paz por la supuesta impunidad que generarán y la segunda es la protección a una serie de élites mafiosas que se quedaron con la tierra despojada a campesinos y que ven en el proceso de paz una amenaza a todo lo que conquistaron ya que la paz significaría averiguar la verdad y devolver lo despojado, a estos sectores se les llama los ‘terceros de buena fe’. La gran mayoría de estas élites se agrupan en el Centro Democrático… A continuación se demostrará como la resistencia civil de Uribe no es otra cosa que la protección de mafiosos, de hecho su discurso de impunidad es bien cuestionable a la luz de las mafias con las que gobernó durante sus dos periodos presidenciales”.

Colombia’s Rural Zones: Mining & Cultivation

•   Colombia court rules local governments can restrict mining projects
Luis Jaime Acosta, Julia Symmes Cobb, and Bernard Orr, Reuters, May 25, 2016
“Colombia’s constitutional court on Wednesday struck down a law which requires mining permits be issued exclusively by the national government, a decision which could open the way for provincial and local authorities to restrict mining in their areas. The 2001 law, which forbid regional and local authorities from declaring certain areas off-limits to miners and put the national government in charge of permit approvals, was voted down after local governments brought the case to court. The Colombian mining association said the ruling was worrying and could affect investment and the future of mining operations in the Andean country, which produces coal, gold, emeralds, nickel and other minerals. Mining companies in Colombia have long complained that legal uncertainty and changeable judicial decisions, as well as protests and attacks by leftist rebels, hobble projects.”

•   US expands extradition powers, raising fears among Colombia’s coca farmers 
Jack Norman, Colombia Reports, May 23, 2016
“US President Barack Obama signed into law an expansion of counter-narcotics prosecutors’ power that has alarmed Colombians who fear small coca growers could be extradited. The law seeks the extradition of anyone involved in the production and trafficking of drugs to the US, which implicitly means coca farmers could be requested for extradition. A spokesman for coca farmers in northeast Colombia told local media the expanded powers of US prosecutors is ‘absurd’ and ‘very dangerous’… But this is an over-reaction, said Adam Isaacson, of the Washington Office on Latin America (WOLA) and an expert on foreign policy in regards to Colombia. ‘The biggest impact of this law might be easing US extradition requests for armed-group leaders’ rather than small participants, Isaacson, a Senior Associate for Regional Security Policy at WOLA, told Colombia Reports.”

*The Colombia News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Latin America Working Group.